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Archive for September, 2014

These days, everyone is trying to tell us something, and as a result, we have trained ourselves to filter out the things that don’t interest us (click onto another website, fast forward through the adverts, change the channel).  Dave Gorman casts his witty eye over the dross and nonsense that comes to us via the internet and certain news media, and asks what’s really going on?  And why do we accept so much junk as just a normal part of life?

As ever, Gorman is entertaining and amusing, and this is a really easy book to read (I read it in one day, on a long flight).  But as well as all the humour – and yes, I laughed out loud several times – he does make some serious points. There are 40 chapters, so far too many to describe, but he talks about why a particular newspaper (it’s the Daily Mail, surprise surprise) doesn’t seem to know what ‘matching’ means in it’s numerous articles about couples, or parents and children wearing matching outfits; why television hosts always ask the same questions; why does the internet think Julia Roberts is Jesus? and so on.  He also looks at some of the seedier parts of the internet, such as mass spamming on Twitter, people being paid to advertise on Twitter (but surreptitiously, so that others are not supposed to realise that they’re advertising) etc.

Most of the chapters are a few pages long – a few are just one page – so it’s an easy, quick read, which will not only have you laughing, but also nodding along in agreement.  Definitely recommended.

(Dave Gorman’s website can be found here.)

 

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In the first part of this funny, moving and frank memoir, Alexandra Heminsley discusses how and why she started running, and – more importantly – how and why she continued to run, despite occasional setbacks and bouts of self-doubt.  She talks about how it brought her closer to family members, and made her feel better about herself, and along the way describes some of the races she has participated in.

The second part of the book is given over to hints and advice to other runners, or people who are thinking of taking up running, whether as a casual hobby, or a serious enthusiast.  The book also talks about the history of women’s running (and boy, did that chapter open my eyes; after reading about the journey that Joan Benoit Samuelson took to become the first female Olympic marathon winner, I watched some of the footage on YouTube, and was filled with admiration and tears).

While Heminsley’s own story is very entertaining and inspiring, the second section of the book is very useful to new runners, offering tips on buying running trainers and equipment, and what you will need if you take part in a big race.  It also highlights injuries that can be caused or aggravated by running, and the best ways to deal with them, and debunks many myths surrounding running.

As a fellow runner, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and identified with many of the feelings that the author described.  Heminsley is very engaging and relatable, and also very funny.  I don’t think you would have to be a runner to appreciate this book, but I am pretty sure that after reading it you would want to pull on your trainers and go for a trot around the block.

I would recommend this book for everyone, but particularly people with even just a passing interest in running.

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This three part adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel features Hattie Morahan as Elinor Dashwood, and Charity Wakefield as Marianne Dashwood.  The two sisters, together with their younger sister Margaret and their mother, are forced to move out of their family home, after their father dies with his whole estate being bequeathed to his son from his first marriage.  Settling into their new life, both the rational and calm Elinor and the more impetuous Marianne fall in love with two very different men, but find that the happiness they hope for is not to be so easily found.

I loved this adaptation, and thought that in particular Morahan and Wakefield were superb as the two sisters, with the characters being very faithful to how they were portrayed in the book.  Dan Stevens (who was to subsequently find fame as Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey) played Edward Ferrars, the young man who immediately catches Elinor’s eye, and he played the role wonderfully – a pleasant surprise for me, as I never enjoyed his Downton character.  Dominic Cooper was suitably seductive and untrustworthy as Willoughby, the young man who charms Marianne over, only to let her down, and David Morrissey was well cast as the honourable Colonel Brandon (with Alan Rickman’s excellent performance from the 1995 film adaptation in my head, I was again pleasantly surprised at how much Morrissey made the role his own).

There were some very moving moments, just as there should be, but there was also a lot of humour in this production.  While I do not really want to make comparisons, I have to say that I preferred this to the 1995  film, as I think the casting was generally much better, and a three hour series gives better opportunity for telling the story than a two hour film.  (However, fans of the novel would be advised to watch both adaptations.)  I definitely recommend this show.

Year of release: 2008

Director: John Alexander

Producers: Rebecca Eaton, Jessica Pope, Vanessa De Sousa, Anne Pivcevic

Writers: Jane Austen (novel), Andrew Davies

Main cast: Hattie Morahan, Charity Wakefield, David Morrissey, Janet McTeer, Dan Stevens, Dominic Cooper, Lucy Boynton, Mark Williams, Linda Bassett, Claire Skinner

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Click here for my review of the 1995 film adaptation.

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Everybody knows the story of The Three Musketeers and their friend D’Artagnan, right?  Well, if you’re like me and you were basing your knowledge  upon the various screen adaptations of the story, then you may be amazed by how much of the story – and the characters – that you don’t know.  D’Artagnan, a young man from the Gascony area of France, who goes to Paris with the aim of joining the King’s Musketeers.  After a few initial misunderstandings, he becomes firm friends with the melancholy Athos, the rambunctious Porthos, and the foppish Aramis.  The book follows their adventures as they become embroiled in trying to stop the evil machinations of Cardinal Richelieu, who is determined to bring down Queen Anne, wife of King Louis XIII.

The book was a delightful and action packed adventure, full of humour, fighting and romance.  I was surprised that there were chunks of the storyline that didn’t actually feature D’Artagnan or the musketeers, and also by the fact that, unlike the screen adaptations, the four servants of the main characters featured almost as heavily as the main characters themselves, and were very instrumental in the musketeers’ plans and actions.

The plot moves on very quickly, and there are LOTS of twists and surprises, but despite this, Dumas still found time to establish each main character’s personality.  It’s fair to say that at times they act in a less than gentlemanly manner, but despite this, I still found myself regarding each character with affection.  It is also, in parts, a very funny story (there is one particular scene where D’Artagnan visits Aramis, who is constantly planning to leave the musketeers to become a man of the cloth, and finds him in consultation with a curate and Jesuit superior, which had me laughing out loud all the way through).

The seductive but evil Lady de Winter, and Cardinal Richelieu are a substantial part of the story, playing the two main villains, with ‘MiLady’ always trying, and often succeeding to stay one step ahead of the musketeers who seek to bring her down.

Overall, this is a hugely entertaining romp through Paris, and I believe that everybody should read it at least once.  For me, it’s a keeper, and one I intend to re-read at some point.

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Click here for my review of the 1993 film, based on the novel.

Click here for my review of the 1973 film, based on the novel.

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Marlon Brando is Johnny Strabler, the leader of a motorbike gang who arrive in the (fictional) town of Wrightsville, California, and, initially just being boisterous are welcomed (or at the least, tolerated) by the residents.  However, when the gang’s behaviour turns dangerous and threatening, the town’s residents decide to take matters into their own hands.  Meanwhille, Johnny meets a young woman named Kathie (played by Mary Murphy), who works in the local cafe, and despite their very different background and lifestyles, there is an attraction between them.

I wasn’t sure whether I would really like this film, but I ended up thoroughly enjoying it.  Brando epitomises 50s rebellion, and (sorry to be shallow) he oozes sex appeal.  I loved his portrayal of Johnny, as a man who is more than what he appears on the surface; it’s clear that Johnny has not known much love and affection in his life, and is looking for something to rebel against (when asked, “What are you rebelling against?” he answers, “Whaddaya got?”).  He almost steals every scene he is in, and would have done, were it not for the fine performance of Mary Murphy as Kathie, who is very attracted to Johnny, but doesn’t understand his lifestyle.  Robert Keith is also notable for his role as Chief Bleeker, the town’s only law enforcement officer, who seems unable to cope with the gang.

The story takes place over just a few days, and despite feeling somewhat aged (but come on, this film is 61 years old!), the film captures the tension and claustrophobic atmosphere of the town.

Overall, this was a pleasant surprise for me, and a film that I would definitely recommend, not only for it’s excellent performances, but also for being a classic, and one of the first films to highlight the issue of gang violence.

Year of release: 1953

Director: Laslo Benedek

Producer: Stanley Kramer

Writers: Frank Rooney (short story), John Paxton, Ben Maddow

Main cast: Marlon Brando, Mary Murphy, Robert Keith, Lee Marvin, Jay C. Flippen, Hugh Sanders, Ray Teal

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